Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Essential" Noir Novels

A couple days ago, the always fun and enlightening Paul David Brazil brought my attention to a terrific list of “essential noir” novels-- you can see it here:
Great list. But looking over it I found that it differed dramatically from my own; after all, even though there are books we’d all agree are must-reads, the ones we find “essential” mostly comes down to subjective evaluations, yeah? That is, the books that really impacted us on a personal level as readers or writers.
And because I’m obsessive this way, I just had to come up with my own list of essential noirs, 21 of them in all (I tried to settle at 20, but one more occurred to me and I didn’t have the heart to cut any of them out)…
Here they are, in no particular order:

Double Indemnity-James M. Cain
The Postman Always Rings Twice- James M. Cain
Pop. 1280-Jim Thompson
The Killer Inside Me- Jim Thompson
The Parker series- Richard Stark
(yes, I’m cheating. It’s a series. Sue me.)
Black Friday- David Goodis
Shoot the Piano Player-David Goodis
Red Harvest-Dashiell Hammett
The Maltese Falcon- Dashiell Hammett
Fast One- Paul Cain
Talented Mr. Ripley- Patricia Highsmith
No Country for Old Men- Cormac McCarthy
Slammer- Alan Guthrie
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?- Horace McCoy
The Black Angel- Cornell Woolrich
Bury Me Deep- Megan Abbott
The Name of the Game is Death- Dan J. Marlowe
The Black Mass of Brother Springer- Charles Willeford
The Burnt-Orange Heresy- Charles Willeford
The Black Dahlia- James Ellroy
A Kiss Before Dying- Ira Levin
The Jack Taylor series- Ken Bruen
(Cheating again, damn my hide.)

Tell you what: Send me your list of essentials and I’ll make a future post out of them. Cool?


  1. Anther top list, with, as always, a few that I haven't read.Nice to see Highsmith in there!

  2. May I put a Dennis Lehane in there? "Darkness Take My Hand" maybe? Interesting choice for McCarthy. Not your usual novel.